Important Employee Handbook Updates for 2021

Learn more about the importance of an employee handbook

2020 and 2021 have been years for the books. More specifically, employee handbooks (pun intended)!

2020 and 2021 have seen so many workplace protocol changes from work-from-home mandates, to new employee benefits such as robust childcare services and exclusive tutoring programs. With a transforming workplace and new HR methodologies, It’s a no-brainer that companies need to take a closer look at employee handbooks and make sure they’re up to date and relevant for today’s world.

In this guide, we’ll review what an employee handbook is/what it’s comprised of, why it’s important, what changes to make to it for 2021, and some tips to make sure yours stands out!

What is an employee handbook?            

The employee handbook is a set of rules, policies, and methodologies that employees and managers refer to and keep “on hand” as a reference for business conduct. It is essentially the cornerstone of communication for HR departments and all employees.

The purpose of the handbook is two-fold:

  1. Address employee-related questions
  2. Document the company’s compliance with federal and state laws and regulations

What does an employee handbook actually contain?

  1. Company culture Information such as workplace expectations, mission statement, company history, and more.
  2. Legal requirements including federal, state, and local employment laws.
  3. Benefits packages such as 401k/company match, health insurance, etc.
  4. On-the-job policies such as security, remote work policy, social media policy, and safety.

You may also like this article on 7 Key HR Metrics you Should be Measuring.

Why an employee handbook is a must for your company:

  1. It’s a compilation of all your company’s policies and protocol, as well as employee’s legal rights and obligations. Basically, all the information needed to “be in the know.”
  2. It makes it easy for you to communicate rules and responsibilities to employees, so there’s no question about what is expected from them – or from you, as the business owner.
  3. The handbook acts as an advocate for both employees and companies.
  4. The handbook helps protect your business legally if questions ever come up about your policies.
  5. In rare cases, it’s the first line of defense against litigation.
  6. It’s your first step to creating a great place to work.

What changes to make to your handbook this year:

  1. In light of the worldwide pandemic, consider adding communicable disease policies to your handbook, which may include provisions for personal protective equipment and information about furloughs and layoffs.
  2. Since work-from-home policies are changing, work from home expectations should be clearly stated.
  3. Equality should always be a priority. However, in light of social justice movements, be sure to review the company’s equity, diversity, and inclusion policies and make sure to play your part in squashing workplace discrimination and social injustice.
  4. Since everything is online now, take the opportunity to highlight your brand presence. Implement a logo or company-identification icon throughout the manual to encourage brand recognition.
  5. These days we can’t risk not being transparent. Be authentic and don’t include policies that don’t align with your actual team practices.

Tip: Don’t forget that once you update your employee handbook, send out a copy to your team with an acknowledgment section for employees to sign.

Make sure your employee handbook stands out: 

Alongside important legal information and company policies, it’s important to add in some fun and interesting pieces that show the character of your team. Examples are:

  1. Pictures of employees with quotes about what they like most about working for your organization
  2. A visual timeline of your org’s history with important milestones
  3. An infographic showing the org’s mission, vision, and values
  4. Tips for employees who want to get promoted
  5. Leaders’ testimonials about how they’ve advanced through the company

The employee handbook is essential to creating a strong HR foundation.

  1. It sets employees up for success: not only is it one of the first written materials that new hires read, but it sets the standard for how the employee journey begins and ends.
  2. It protects your company: a thorough employee handbook makes sure all your bases are covered concerning company expectations and legal practices.

Tip: Don’t forget that employee handbook creation isn’t just your HR manager’s job, but rather, a team-wide effort to make sure everything and everyone is included and represented in it. After all, it’s the company story, reference, and safeguard for everyone involved.


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